Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 30
 
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
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Borough, Police May Be Hit With $5M Suit

Matthew Hersh

In May, Princeton Borough Police imposed a 60-day, unpaid suspension on one of its veteran patrol officers following an incident over the officer's conduct during a motor vehicle stop. The officer has since completed that suspension. Department officials believe that the penalty was justified.

But the suspension could be the least of the department's problems.

On July 13, the Borough Clerk's office was handed a letter of intent from the woman involved in the incident, Lawrenceville resident Linda Fahmie, threatening damages against the Borough. Subsequently, in an interview with Town Topics Tuesday after initial reports in the Times of Trenton, Ms. Fahmie confirmed that once she retains legal council, she intends to file a $5 million suit again the department, the municipality, and the officer, Patrolman Adam Basatemur, a nine-year force member and 2005 Princeton Borough Officer of the Year.

In her pre-lawsuit tort claim, Ms. Fahmie said the April 30 motor vehicle stop along Route 206 South left her "emotionally distraught and distressed and deeply embarrassed."

Just after 10:30 p.m. that April evening, following a dinner at a Princeton Borough restaurant, Ms. Fahmie, 50, was pulled over on her motorcycle for reportedly traveling 47 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. According to her report, she then told Officer Basatemur that she suffered from colitis and needed to use the bathroom at her home, approximately a mile away.

In a separate interview, Ms. Fahmie said she was speeding because of her medical condition.

However, Officer Basatemur reportedly told Ms. Fahmie to relieve herself on a nearby tree and said that she would be arrested if she tried to leave.

Later in her account, Ms. Fahmie cites a May 2 face-to-face conversation she had with Borough Police Lieutenant Nicholas Sutter, who offered extensive apologies for the incident after both he and Borough Police Chief Anthony Federico reviewed Officer Basatemur's squad car video tape during regular patrol stop examinations.

But "the thought of what the officer made me do causes me constant great distress," Ms. Fahmie said in her report.

"He certainly did not use good discretion," said Borough administrator Robert Bruschi, who added that Officer Basatemur's two-month unpaid suspension was a decision made by Chief Federico following consultation with Borough attorney Michael Herbert.

Chief Federico said Tuesday he felt that the suspension "speaks for itself" in terms of its severity.

But the severity of the suspension is not satisfactory, Ms. Fahmie said, adding that the pending damages she could seek are not punitive in nature so much as a way to draw attention to what she called, "a kind of behavior where significant changes have to be made.

"The fact that the officer is back on the force after two months, means that his behavior is tolerated," she said.

Ms. Fahmie would not elaborate on how she arrived at the $5 million figure or when she would file a formal complaint, though she indicated that it would be sometime in the near future.

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